Can physical exercise strengthen immunity (and also better protect against Covid)?

from Cristina Marrone

People who exercise appear to have greater resistance to infectious diseases. New research shows regular physical activity people have a 44% lower risk of contracting severe Covid disease than sedentary peers

Sport drives Covid away. And not only. I notice that keep physically active it can help keep diseases at bay, especially as winter approaches when colds and flu appear. Sports people generally seem to suffer less from respiratory infections and in any case tend to get sick less severely.

The new research

Now a meta-analysis that looked at 16 studies on people who remained physically active during the Covid pandemic found that training was associated with a lower risk of infection and a lower likelihood of contracting Covid. The analysis, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicineas the New York Times, has aroused the enthusiasm of sports doctors who push for a health policy oriented to consider exercise as medicine. Experts who deal with immunology and virology seem more cautious in interpreting the results, while agreeing that exercise contributes to keeping us healthy through several mechanisms.

I study

In the new meta-analysis, the scientists analyzed data from three research databases that dealt with the association between physical activity and Covid published between November 2019 and March 2022, selecting 16 of the more than 200 identified. The studies involved 1,853,610 adults in all, just over half of whom (54%) were women. The average age of the participants was 53. From the analysis it emerged that those who exercised regularly every week had an 11 percent lower risk of Sars-CoV-2 infection, a 36 percent lower risk of hospitalizationa lower riskiore of 44 percent serious illness and a 43 percent lower risk of death than theirs more sedentary peers.

People who followed guidelines that recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week seemed to get the most benefit. Exceeding that threshold has not led to further benefits. However, even those who exercised less were more protected against disease than those who did not train at all.

How exercise can strengthen immunity

The hypotheses put forward to explain the protective role of physical activity are different. Researchers theorize that exercise can help fight infectious bacteria and viruses for example by increasing the blood circulation of immune cells
. According to some small studies muscle movement releases cytokines, which help guide immune cells to identify and fight infections. Although the levels of cytokines and immune cells decrease a few hours after the end of training, the immune system is more responsive if you train every day. It has also been seen that theregular moderate-intensity exercise linked to less chronic inflammation.

Research also shows that exercise can amplify the benefits of some vaccines
. For example, people who trained immediately after the Covid-19 vaccine seemed to produce more antibodies. And in studies of the elderly who were vaccinated at the beginning of the flu season it was found that those who exercised maintained a level of antibodies that lasted. throughout the winter.

The other benefits

We also know that exercise provides a range of broader benefits than it cano reduce the incidence and severity of disease. A run, a walk, a session at the gym or pool help reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, all risk factors for Covid and flu. In addition physical activity helps sleep betterto improve mood And metabolism. It’s hard to tell if the benefits come from changes in the immune system or simply from better overall health, he commented New York Times l Dr. Stuart Ray, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Better not to overdo it

The meta-analysis it does not demonstrate a causal link between sport and protection from Covid, at least in its most serious form and as experts point out, one cannot think of going to the gym to keep Covid away. In the study in question, but in many other jobs, often not precisely indicated what and what exercise is being talked about because the participants self report their activity. very likely that those who play sports also follow one balanced diet and submit to medical check-ups, confusing aspects on the real contribution of sport in the defense of diseases
. Finally there is a heated debate as to whether overdoing your workouts makes you more or less susceptible to disease. THE marathon runners often report getting sick after races and some researchers suspect that too vigorous exercise could overstimulate cytokines and inflammation (let’s remember that patient one of the Covid epidemic in Italy had recently completed a marathon). Uninterrupted exercise also exhausts them glycogen reserves of the body which in some people may impair immune function. Among other things, training in group contexts, also sharing locker rooms, can expose athletes to more pathogens. However, for the average athlete, studies suggest that there may be a protective effect against serious illness that is most likely not due to physical activity anyway.

September 9, 2022 (change September 9, 2022 | 16:29)

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Can physical exercise strengthen immunity (and also better protect against Covid)?

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